NC State basketball vs Purdue prediction: March Madness, NCAA Final Four pick is in

NC State basketball, a No. 11 seed in the 2024 NCAA Tournament, continues its magical March Madness run on Saturday (6:09 p.m. ET, TBS) against top-seeded Purdue in the Final Four.

The Wolfpack (26-14) will face the Boilermakers (33-4) in the first national semifinal at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

In its first Final Four since winning the national championship in 1983, NC State got to this point with wins against Texas Tech, Oakland, Marquette and Duke to clinch a trip to Arizona. Purdue is in the Final Four for the first time since 1980.

Here are some things to know and a score prediction for NC State’s Final Four matchup with the Boilermakers. The winner will face top-seeded UConn (35-3) or fourth-seeded Alabama (25-11) on Monday for the national title.

NC State’s DJ Burns vs Purdue’s Zach Edey in clash of titans

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We’ll find out this weekend when 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey battles 6-foot-9, 275-pound forward DJ Burns in a heavyweight showdown. Burns had 29 points on 13-of-19 shooting in NC State’s win against Duke, and Edey produced 40 points with 16 rebounds against Tennessee. It's a matchup that will capture the attention of America this weekend.

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NC State’s DJ Horne, Purdue’s Braden Smith are key guards

Guards win in March. NC State and Purdue have dominant bigs, but their lead guards continue to rise to the occasion in each team’s biggest moments. Raleigh native DJ Horne is averaging 19 points in the last five games for the Wolfpack. Purdue sophomore Braden Smith, who is 11th nationally with an assist rate of 38.6%, has logged double-digit assists in three of the last five games. Horne and Smith will have to keep it up if they want their teams to be playing Monday night.

X-factors for the Wolfpack, Boilermakers in Final Four

It’s easy to focus on Edey and Burns as the headliners, but under-the-radar players always seem to provide some of the biggest moments in March Madness. For NC State, the production of frontcourt players Mo Diarra and Ben Middlebrooks will be huge as the Wolfpack tries to contain Edey. Diarra has logged a double-double in three of the last four games, and Middlebrooks got State rolling with a 21-point performance against Texas Tech. Lance Jones has a chance to be that X-factor for Purdue. Jones, a Southern Illinois transfer, is averaging 8.5 points in the tournament, but he’s capable of flipping games as a defender and scorer.

NC State vs Purdue prediction in March Madness Final Four

Purdue 76, NC State 70: The Wolfpack has leaned into a prove-it mentality throughout the tournament, but so have the Boilermakers. After losing to a 16 seed last season, Purdue won’t be taking NC State lightly in Arizona. Zach Edey, the most dominant force in the sport, will be the difference.

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Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached or @RoddBaxley on X/Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: NC State vs. Purdue prediction: March Madness, Final Four pick is in